In a bid to get more Jewish children into camping this summer, and more Jewishly engaged afterwards, two foundations — one local, one national — are offering thousands of dollars in scholarships for eligible first-time campers.
The United Jewish Federation Foundation’s Fund for a Jewish Future is offering the scholarships for overnight Jewish camps, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
The initiative — the first to be launched by the Fund for a Jewish Future — will provide $1,000 to eligible campers for summer 2010. Qualified children must be new to overnight Jewish camping — never having before participated in a session 19 days or longer — and they must enroll in an approved Jewish camp for a three-week session or longer.
Cindy Shapira, who co-chairs the Fund for a Jewish Future with her husband, David Shapira, said the two foundations will put up $500 apiece for 40 scholarships in 2010.
But Alicia Zimbalist, a spokeswoman for the Foundation for Jewish Camp, said her organization might be interested in assisting more kids once the 40 scholarships are awarded.
“We would consider coming up with new options to send more kids to camp once they (Pittsburgh) reach their limit,” Zimbalist said.
For now at least, the project is slated for next year only. “We are hoping we are able to continue it [beyond next year], Shapira said, “but we can’t promise that yet.”
The Fund for a Jewish Future is a community-wide planned giving campaign designed to create a major endowment that will be “transformational” for Jewish Pittsburgh.
When then-UJF Chair Daniel Shapira announced the formation of the Fund in September, he identified camping, trips to Israel and education as three proven tools for strengthening Jewish identity among youth.
“We obviously wanted to go for one of those three as our first initiative,” Cindy Shapira said.
So when they learned that the Foundation for Jewish Camp offering to partner with community Jewish organizations to offer the scholarships, Shapira said it seemed like “beshert.”
“It was away of leveraging our initiative and we had to grab it in terms of timing,” she said, “it was for a limited time they were making this offer.”
Foundation for Jewish Camp has been running this match program since 2006 -2007, funding it with contributions from an anonymous donor. To date, it has sent over 9,000 kids to overnight camp for the first time. It also runs similar programs.
Zimbalist said the Fund partners with organizations federations in 36 communities across the United States and Canada.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)